TODAY'S TOP STORY: There have been further developments at Utopia Music. CMU has learnt that staff at the company were emailed yesterday by co-founder and CEO Mattias Hjelmstedt giving them the heads-up that there is a "slight delay" in processing the payment of July salaries, but reassuring employees that the future holds "great promise"... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Utopia group salaries delayed, suppliers told invoices will be paid when company raises funding
Utopia declares second R&D business bankrupt
DEALS Imagine Dragons sign to Warner Chappell
LIVE BUSINESS Save The Leadmill campaign ramps up ahead of September licensing committee meeting
ARTIST NEWS Sinead O'Connor dies
Anti-Flag members confirm break up related to sexual assault allegations against frontman

AWARDS Mercury Prize shortlist announced
ONE LINERS James Blake, Claire Richards, Orbital, more
AND FINALLY... Travis Scott's Egyptian pyramids show cancelled due to "complex production issues"
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Utopia group salaries delayed, suppliers told invoices will be paid when company raises funding
There have been further developments at Utopia Music. CMU has learnt that staff at the company were emailed yesterday by co-founder and CEO Mattias Hjelmstedt giving them the heads-up that there is a "slight delay" in processing the payment of July salaries, but reassuring employees that the future holds "great promise".

Sources close to former staff members have told CMU that it's not the first time wages at the group's companies have been delayed, and that, in fact, late salary payments have been a problem for some time. Suppliers of services to Utopia-owned companies have further confirmed that requests for payment of outstanding invoices have been delayed, with Utopia staffers saying that payments would be made "once Utopia secured further funding".

Asked about the email circulated to staff, a Utopia spokesperson said: "Unfortunately, there have been some hiccups in internal processes due to our transformation efforts. We are actively working on resolving all of them, and all employees are in the process of being paid".

The delay in salary payments does not extend to employees working for Proper Music and Cinram - which currently operate as part of Utopia Distribution Services. Drew Hill, MD of Proper Music Group and VP Of Distribution at Utopia Music, confirmed that there are "no issues with salary payments at either Proper Music Group or Utopia Distribution Services".

As for the overall solvency of Utopia Music AG - the Swiss parent company of the group - Utopia's spokesperson reiterated a statement previously made to CMU in relation to the closing down of the company's R&D companies in the UK and Finland.

They said: "As a principle, we - as a non-listed company - do not answer questions regarding our financials as they are subject to external audit and shareholder approval. However, part of the reason that the R&D entities were closed down was to safeguard our global operations".

With a headcount rumoured to have been in excess of 1000 at its height - and a company focus that relies heavily on skills that are in high demand - wages are presumably a significant part of the company's outgoings. Company accounts filed by the Finnish R&D entity show wages and other staffing-related costs for that company alone were €5.15 million in 2022.

Utopia has been downsizing rapidly in recent months which will have reduced running costs, but with salaries delayed as people head off for summer holidays, staff discontent is growing by the day.


Utopia declares second R&D business bankrupt
Following the news that Utopia Music's UK R&D company has called in the liquidators, CMU has now confirmed that the group's Finnish R&D company - Utopia R&D Tech Finland OY - has also been placed into bankruptcy.

Utopia co-founder and CEO Mattias Hjelmstedt confirmed the latest downsizing at the music firm late last week via an internal memo. He told employees that the company was "consolidating" its R&D offices in order to create a "leaner and more efficient setup". As a result, he said, its "relatively small" R&D offices in the UK and Finland would be wound down, leaving one in Sweden remaining.

However, earlier this week CMU learned that the company that employed the UK R&D team has actually been put into liquidation. And yesterday we discovered that the Finnish company has likewise filed for bankruptcy. A filing with the Finnish Company Registrar on Monday states that "the business operator has been declared bankrupt" and then confirms the "commencement of bankruptcy proceedings".

This approach is likely to impact the employees who are being made redundant as a result of this latest round of downsizing. Sources close to the business have told CMU that staff employed by the UK R&D division were expecting to be paid earlier this week but were instead instructed to speak to the liquidators to claim wages they are owed.

A spokesperson for Utopia previously confirmed the liquidation of the UK company to CMU, stating: "Unfortunately, we could not maintain the UK entity's sustainability, which is why we have entrusted it to the liquidators. Nevertheless, we remain committed to delivering services to the music industries through our other ten operational entities".

They also added that Utopia has engaged an "independent entity" to provide "specialised assistance to each employee in claiming their entitlements".

Paperwork filed with the Finnish companies registrar on Jun 29 2023 shows that Utopia R&D Tech Finland OY declared a turnover of €8.95 million in 2022 and paid out €5.15 million in wages and other employee costs during this period. It declared a gross profit of €562,163.91 at the end of 2022.

The company accounts also record nearly €2.6 million in total short-term receivables (amounts owed to the company) of which €2.53 million were noted to be receivables from companies within the same group. "Short term" in this context is generally understood to be amounts that would be paid within twelve months.

When asked whether Switzerland-based parent company Utopia Music AG was solvent and able to meet its current liabilities a spokesperson for the company said: "As a principle, we - as a non-listed company - do not answer questions regarding our financials as they are subject to external audit and shareholder approval. However, part of the reason that the R&D entities in the UK and Finland were closed down was to safeguard our global operations".

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Imagine Dragons sign to Warner Chappell
Imagine Dragons have signed a new global publishing admin deal with Warner Chappell.

"Songwriting has always been at the heart of everything we do as a band", says frontman Dan Reynolds. "We're excited to have great partners with our friends at Warner Chappell as we move into this next chapter".

In a joint statement, Warner Chappell Co-Chairs Guy Moot and Carianne Marshall add: "For more than ten years, Imagine Dragons have not only reached but maintained global stardom and connected with fans on a universal level".

"The band is the perfect example of what happens when you successfully work across genres and mediums to create a wide range of crossover hits", they go on. "We're lucky to be on this ride with them and excited for the journey ahead".

Previously published by Universal Music Publishing, the band released their sixth studio album 'Mercury - Act 2' in July last year.


Save The Leadmill campaign ramps up ahead of September licensing committee meeting
The ongoing Save The Leadmill campaign has moved up a gear, with the venue's existing management saying that their dispute with landlord the Electric Group is "a battle for the soul of Sheffield". This comes ahead of a Sheffield Council meeting in September where the Electric Group - which wants to directly run the venue moving forward - will seek its own licence from the local authority.

In a bid to rally further support ahead of that licensing meeting, the current management posted an emotive video earlier this week that makes some pretty bold statements. "This is the battle for the soul of Sheffield", it begins. "It's a battle for everything that has made our city what it is today".

Meanwhile, the boss of the Electric Group - Dominic Madden - has again hit out at the Save The Leadmill campaign, which he previously dubbed as "toxic".

He accuses current Leadmill operator Phil Mills and his team of deliberately misleading the public into thinking that the venue will close when the Electric Group takes control of the building. But the Electric Group is a venues business, and plans to run and programme The Leadmill in a similar manner to Mills and his colleagues.

Madden's company bought the building that houses The Leadmill in 2016. The current management team were then formally given twelve months to vacate the premises in March last year. Eager to remain in place, that team quickly launched their Save The Leadmill campaign, which has won the support of many artists and fans.

The deadline to leave the building came and went, and the current team is still in situ and has programmed shows into 2024. It emerged earlier this month that the Electric Group has now begun formal legal proceedings to evict Mills and that should reach court next year.

Along the way the Electric Group - which also runs venues in London, Bristol and Newcastle - began the process of securing a licence from Sheffield Council to allow it to directly operate a venue in its building.

Technically that will initially be a 'shadow premises licence', which is where a landlord holds a licence in relation to a building where a tenant also has a licence to trade. The aim, presumably, is to ensure that any future switchover between Mills' team and Madden's team is as seamless as possible.

When the Electric Group began that process, the current team urged their supporters to formally object to the new licence application with Sheffield Council.

Noting that "without a premises licence, a venue cannot operate", they said in a statement: "The general public are able to object to a premises licence application if they are aware of any relevant reasons as to why it should not be granted".

While it seems likely that some of those supporters submitted objections to the council, the 'relevant reasons' allowed for objecting to a licence application are very narrow. There are four main reasons that can justify such an objection, as follows: "the prevention of crime and disorder; public safety; the prevention of public nuisance; the protection of children from harm".

All of this means it seems somewhat optimistic to think that the Electric Group's plans to take control of The Leadmill can be blocked by the council's licensing committee. Nevertheless, a meeting of that committee on 18 Sep is the next key date for the current team as their Save The Leadmill campaign continues.

"The battle we are facing is whether, in the years ahead, we have more or less independence in Sheffield", the new campaign video declares. "We need a home where some of the greatest artists of all time can still be discovered. We need a home where cinema and theatre fans can come together. We need a home where comedians can craft their trade and keep our city laughing".

"We need a home where nightlife can remain fun, safe and secure", it continues. "We need a home where the culture, arts, music and heritage that our city has developed over its life can continue to thrive. We need a home where our community can come together to support each other. We need The Leadmill".

"If we don't stop this hostile takeover", they then conclude, ramping up the drama even more, "the very soul and character of our great city is at risk. This battle may start with The Leadmill, but it goes much further than that. This is the battle for the soul of Sheffield. Join us".

The "independence" point towards the start of all that is another argument regularly presented by the current management team, especially once people realise that the Electric Group will continue to run a venue in the building. The argument goes that The Leadmill is better as an independent venue run by Sheffield people.

Seeking to counter that narrative, Madden said in a previous statement: "We intend to recruit a team from Sheffield, we intend to continue to run all the community engagement projects that they do at the moment, we will continue to run the studios that are set above the venue. The new version of the Leadmill will be almost seamlessly similar to the existing operations".

Noting that the Electric Group - while running a small network of venues around the UK - is hardly a big corporate, he added: "We're good people, and we actually bought the venue to protect it from being redeveloped. Every city has its own peculiar, weird and wonderful handwriting, and the venues need to reflect that. We don't run a chain of venues. We're not the O2 Academy".

In a new statement, Madden is keen to further stress that his company bought the building that houses The Leadmill in a bid to ensure it remained a venue in a world where property developers are all too keen to turn city centre buildings used by venues into apartment blocks.

Says Madden: "Electric Group acquired the Leadmill building from MCR Properties with a genuine concern for its future and the possibility of redevelopment. As operators of multiple music venues across the UK, it seemed only natural that we would step in to protect this iconic space".

"Phil Mills, the current operator of the Leadmill, had several opportunities to purchase the freehold of the building, including during a public auction in 2014", he then adds. "However, he chose not to pursue this course of action, and as a result, Electric Group acquired the freehold in 2016. Our intention from the beginning has been to continue operating the venue as a music, arts, and comedy hub, preserving its legacy".

As for the ongoing licence application, he continues: "The application for a shadow premises licence is a proactive step to safeguard the Leadmill's future as a music venue for generations to come. This is not about shutting down The Leadmill or forcing anyone out of business. Instead, it's about securing its status as thriving space for artists and community engagement".

"We understand that this current situation must be profoundly difficult for the staff who are facing anxiety and uncertainty during this transitional period", he then says. "We hope to engage with all staff who are currently involved with the Leadmill at the appropriate time".

"To reiterate, our intentions have always been rooted in preserving and enriching the cultural fabric of Sheffield", he concludes. "We are excited about the opportunity to continue The Leadmill's legacy and build upon its rich heritage as a beloved music and arts venue".

But first, we watch September's meeting of Sheffield Council's licensing committee and any court hearings next year regarding the eviction proceedings with interest.


Approved: Hakushi Hasegawa
The latest signing to Flying Lotus's Brainfeeder label, Hakushi Hasegawa has released new single 'Mouth Flash (Kuchinohanabi)'.

In the hands of another artist, the song could be very different. Gentle, perhaps. Sweet, even. But processed through Hakushi's typically fast and loose approach to the conventions of genre, dynamics and arrangement, what any other artist would do quickly becomes irrelevant.

The most striking thing about the track is the drums, which frequently overwhelm the rest of the music. It can feel like you're trying to listen to the song through a wall while an enthusiastic drummer practices beside you. Then suddenly the vocals will lift out of that wall of sound and envelop you in a warmth that feels all the more affecting for its unexpected appearance.

"What I feel I should do from now on is to disturb the music with my own body, and to expose the chaos, although it is not coherent", says Hakushi of the track. "I believe that this song is the very beginning of that process. The body is always subject to the forces of history and categorisation, but always seems to be situated between individual narratives, songs, and dances at the same time. Please give it a listen - I did my best!"

Watch the video for 'Mouth Flash (Kuchinohanabi)' here.

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Sinead O'Connor dies
Sinead O'Connor has died, aged 56. No cause of death has yet been made public.

In a statement to Irish broadcaster RTE, her family said: "It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Sinead. Her family and friends are devastated and have requested privacy at this very difficult time".

Born in Dublin in 1966, O'Connor first gained attention as a singer fronting the band Ton Ton Macoute in the mid-1980s. Off the back of this, she branched out as a solo artist, with her first single - 'Heroine' in 1986 - co-written with U2 guitarist The Edge for the soundtrack of the film 'Captive'.

Her debut album 'The Lion And The Cobra' was released the following year and was relatively successful, achieving top 40 chart positions in several countries, including the UK and US. However, it was the follow-up - 1990's 'I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got' - that catapulted her to global fame.

The album's lead single was her cover of Prince's 'Nothing Compares 2 U', which became one of the most successful releases globally that year.

Throughout her career it remained the song she was best known for - and her version is undoubtedly better known than the original. O'Connor has said that when she met Prince after the song came out they got into a "punch-up" over it. And last year the Prince estate refused permission for the song to appear in a documentary about O'Connor, Prince's half-sister Sharon Nelson telling Billboard that the family "didn't feel she deserved to use the song".

In part, Prince's protestations seemed less about her performance and more down to O'Connor's emergence as a controversial figure in the music industry. Often outspoken, her most notorious incident came in 1992 when she appeared on 'Saturday Night Live' in the US.

On the show, she performed a version of Bob Marley's 'War' as a protest against sexual abuse of children within the Catholic Church. While singing the word "evil", she held up a photo of Pope John Paul II and tore it into pieces, which she then threw towards the camera. The performance ended with silence in the studio, but was followed by over 4000 complaints to broadcaster NBC.

In her 2021 memoir 'Remembering', she said of the performance: "Everyone wants a pop star, see? But I am a protest singer. I just had stuff to get off my chest. I had no desire for fame".

O'Connor continued to release music throughout her career, most recently 2020 single 'Trouble Of The World'. However, she was often more in the public eye for her personal life and well-publicised mental health issues.

In January last year, her seventeen year old son Shane took his own life. At the time, O'Connor had been preparing to return to music with the release of 'No Veteran Dies Alone', her first album since 2014's 'I'm Not Bossy I'm The Boss'.

However, in the wake of her son's death, the release was postponed and tour dates in support of it were cancelled. In a statement at the time, her management said that this had not been an easy decision but was for the sake of "her own health and wellbeing".

O'Connor is survived by her three other children, Jake, Roisin and Yeshua.


Anti-Flag members confirm break up related to sexual assault allegations against frontman
Former Anti-Flag frontman Justin Sane has denied allegations of sexual assault, following the recent sudden and unexpected break up of the band.

Anti-Flag announced their split via the band's Patreon page earlier this month. Although no reason was given, fans online linked the move to a podcast episode published earlier the same week that made serious allegations about the singer of an unnamed political punk band.

Acknowledging that he was the subject of these allegations (while also denying them), Sane - real name Justin Geever - said in a statement: "Recently, there have been claims of sexual assault made against me and I can tell you that these stories are categorically false".

"I have never engaged in a sexual relationship that was not consensual", he added. "Nor have I ever been approached by a woman after a sexual encounter and been told I had in any way acted without her consent or violated her in any way. Now that I have had a few days to absorb the initial shock, I am making this statement to set the record straight".

"Sexual assault is real and has a devastating impact on victims", he went on. "I have devoted my entire adult life to standing up for these victims as well as those suffering oppression and inequality, who are victimised, demeaned and abused. I have always been, and will always be, that person. The statements being told about me are the antithesis of what I believe and how I have conducted myself throughout my life".

Commenting on the break up of the band he formed in 1988, he said that "as a band, the decision was made that under these circumstances it would be impossible to continue".

His former bandmates - Pat Thetic, Chris Head and Chris '#2' Barker - also issued a joint statement, saying: "A core tenet of the band Anti-Flag is to listen to and believe all survivors of sexual violence and abuse. The recent allegations about Justin are in direct contradiction to that tenet. Therefore, we felt the only immediate option was to disband".

"We have been shocked, confused, saddened and absolutely heartbroken from the moment we heard these allegations", they went on. "While we believe this is extremely serious, in the last 30 years we have never seen Justin be violent or aggressive toward women. This experience has shaken us to our core".

"We understand and apologise that this response may not have been quick enough for some people", they went on. "This is new territory for all of us and it is taking time for us to process the situation. It was a privilege for us to be in the band Anti-Flag, as we seek to find our path forward we wish healing to all survivors".


Mercury Prize shortlist announced
This year's Mercury Prize shortlist has been announced, with artists including Arctic Monkeys, Jessie Ware and Raye vying for the £25,000 prize for the best British and Irish album of the last year.

As ever, twelve albums make up the shortlist, with one overall winner set to be announced during a ceremony at the Hammersmith Apollo in London on 7 Sep.

The 2023 judging panel was revealed yesterday. Now setting about agreeing on which album they like best from the shortlist they've drawn up, those judges are musicians Jamie Cullum, Anna Calvi and Hannah Peel; broadcasters Mistajam, Jamz Supernova, Danielle Perry and Sian Eleri; music journalists Phil Alexander, Tshepo Mokoena and Will Hodgkinson; music programming consultant Lea Stonehill; and Head Of Music at 6 Music & Radio 2 Jeff Smith, who chairs the whole thing.

Here's the full list of nominees:

Arctic Monkeys - The Car
Ezra Collective - Where I'm Meant To Be
Fred Again - Actual Life 3 (January 1 - September 9 2022)
J Hus - Beautiful And Brutal Yard
Jessie Ware - That! Feels Good!
Jockstrap - I Love You Jennifer B
Lankum - False Lankum
Loyle Carner - Hugo
Olivia Dean - Messy
Raye - My 21st Century Blues
Shygirl - Nymph
Young Fathers - Heavy Heavy



CTM Outlander has acquired a stack of music rights from producer/songwriter Fraser T Smith, including his interest in songs he worked on with the likes Tiësto, Rita Ora, Stormzy, Dave, Craig David and Raye. Says CTM Outlander CEO André de Raaff: "Fraser is a once in a generation songwriter and we look forward to shining a light on these compositions for years to come". Smith himself adds: "Knowing that my catalogue is in good hands is important to me, and André's years of experience in publishing means that my songs have not only been acquired but will be given the very best platform for the future as well".



James Blake has released new single 'Loading', taken from his upcoming album 'Playing Robots Into Heaven', which is out on 8 Sep.

Claire Richards has released a cover of Abba's 'Summer Night City', featuring Erasure's Andy Bell. "While it's always scary to tackle Abba, we chose to include 'Summer Night City' on the album because it's not an obvious choice but it's an absolute banger", she says. "Both Steps and Erasure have so many connections to Abba, it felt like a perfect match but probably not one people would expect. I'm delighted to have Andy be part of this record".

Orbital have released new track 'The Crane', featuring Dina Ipavic. "'The Crane' came about through collaboration with the artist Giles Walker", says Orbital's Paul Hartnoll. "I scored his robotic installation piece called 'Monster', and within the piece was an Armenian folk song sung by Dina Ipavic. I found it so lovely I tried it over some piano that I'd written for the installation. They went together so beautifully that 'The Crane' was born!"

Mitski has announced that she will release her seventh studio album 'The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We' on 15 Sep, which she describes as her "most American album". Out now is new single 'Bug Like An Angel'.

Cumgirl8 have released new single 'Cursed Angel'. The band say the song is "about feeling like you're slipping out of reality; it's uncontrollable and sometimes you can't contain it. If you don't fight it, the outcome can be positive". It's taken from upcoming EP 'Phantasea Pharm', which is out on 18 Aug.

Be Your Own Pet have released new single 'Big Trouble'. 'Mommy', the band's first album in over fifteen years, will be out on 25 Aug.

Knife Bride have released new single 'Sacrifice/Surrender'. "[The song] represents the most paralysing part of sleep", says vocalist Mollie Buckley. "The point that's somewhere between reality and deep, immersive dreaming. This is why you can hear a sequence of various voices stabbing and churning through the chorus, and why the verses are more focused on being a spectator of your own dreams rather than there being a clear narrative". New EP 'Don't Dream Too Much' is out on 25 Aug.

Genn have released new single 'Calypso'. "This song started out when I was noodling around on the guitar after listening to Maltese folk music - particularly għana - and thinking about how I can give my own 'contemporary take' on that before I brought it to the band", says guitarist Janelle Borg. The band's debut album 'Unum' is out on 6 Oct.

Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.


Travis Scott's Egyptian pyramids show cancelled due to "complex production issues"
Travis Scott's planned performance at the pyramids of Giza, Egypt this weekend has been cancelled, with promoter Live Nation citing "complex production issues" as the reason for pulling the show. However, the rapper himself subsequently said that the performance will still go ahead at a later date.

In a statement, Live Nation said: "We regret to inform you that [Travis Scott's] 'Utopia' show, originally scheduled for 28 Jul at the pyramids of Giza in Egypt, is cancelled. Unfortunately, despite highest efforts, complex production issues meant that the show could not be constructed in the desert. We understand that this news is disappointing and not the outcome any of us desired".

The company also said that refunds would be provided to all ticket holders at the point of purchase. But last night Scott insisted that the show will still go ahead on another date still to be announced.

"Egypt at the pyramids will happen", he tweeted. "But due to demand and detail logistics they just need a bit a time to set lay on lands. I will keep you posted on a date which will be soon".

He also said that he had plans to put on "four more of these types of experiences in other places".

This is not the first time that the show's cancellation has been reported. Earlier this month there were reports of an intervention by an organisation called the Egyptian Musicians Syndicate which would stop Scott's performance from going ahead.

Egypt Today published a statement from that organisation, saying: "As the Musicians Syndicate is part of the fabric of our beloved country, it works towards its stability and security and rejects any tampering with the societal values, customs, and traditions of Egypt and the Arab world".

"After examining social media opinions and feedback", it went on, "as well as the news circulating on search engines and social media platforms, which included authenticated images and information about peculiar rituals performed by the star during his performance, contradicting our authentic societal values and traditions, the Syndicate's president and board of directors have decided to cancel the licence issued for hosting this type of concert, which goes against the cultural identity of the Egyptian people".

However, Live Nation, while not specifically commenting on the remarks made by the Syndicate, insisted at the time that the performance would go ahead as planned. Posting to the Twitter account of Live Nation Middle East, it said: "There have been no changes to Travis Scott's show in Egypt; any reports to the contrary are false. We can't wait to celebrate 'Utopia' with you in Egypt!"

'Utopia' is also the name of Scott's new album, which is out tomorrow. The pyramids performance was something of a launch show for the new record. Nevertheless, the rapper confirmed on Twitter earlier this week that the album will still go live tomorrow. And while there may not be a pyramids show to coincide with the new record, there is a movie.

Titled 'Circus Maximus', that is set to be screened in cinemas around the US from later today. It is a collaboration with Gaspar Noé, Nicolas Winding Refn, Harmony Korine, Valdimar Jóhannsson, and Kahlil Joseph, and there's a trailer here if you're interested.

So, with both a new album and a new movie to promote, who has time for jumping up and down in front of one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World? No one, that's who. So thank you complex production issues. Or maybe the Egyptian Musicians Syndicate, who knows?


ANDY MALT heads up our editorial operations, overseeing the CMU Dailywebsite and Setlist podcast, managing social channels, reporting on artist and business stories, and writing the CMU Approved column.
[email protected] (except press releases, see below)
CHRIS COOKE is co-Founder and MD of CMU - he continues to write key business news stories, and runs training, research and event projects for the CMU Insights consultancy unit and CMU:DIY future talent programme.
[email protected] (except press releases, see below)
SAM TAYLOR leads on the commerical side of CMU, overseeing sales, sponsorship and business development, as well as heading up training, research and event projects at our consultancy unit CMU Insights.
[email protected] or call 020 7099 9060
CARO MOSES is Editor of CMU's sister media ThisWeek Culture and ThreeWeeks Edinburgh. Having previously also written and edited articles for CMU, she continues to advise and support our operations.
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